What you need to know about the Robert Mueller investigation
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has released a summary of the long-awaited report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The summary states that Mueller did not find that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
However, the summary also notes that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Coverage of the Robert Mueller probe on Globalnews.ca:
Mueller concluded his investigation on Friday after nearly two years.
The investigation has been composed of several developments that have, at times, proven difficult to keep track of amid indictments and plea agreements.
Here are a few things to know about the Mueller investigation:
When did it start?
It was March 20, 2017, when then-FBI director James Comey confirmed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the agency was conducting a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017.
Mueller, himself a former FBI director, was appointed special counsel to oversee the investigation on May 17, 2017.
What did Mueller investigate?
Mueller was authorized to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”
He was also authorized to probe any matters that come out of that investigation and anything else that might be within the special counsel’s jurisdiction.
WATCH: House Judiciary chairman says he will use subpoena power if needed to get full Mueller report
How much did the investigation cost?
From May 17, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018, the investigation is estimated to have cost over $21 million, according to expenditure reports.
Financial figures associated with the probe contrasts markedly with those cited by President Trump, who first claimed that the investigation has cost $30 million when reports suggested it only cost $16.7 million. Trump later suggested that the probe has cost $40 million.
Who was charged? What have they been charged with? What has the result been?
Mueller brought charges against 34 people, including Russian agents and former key allies of Trump, such as his campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Mike Flynn and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
None of those charges, however, directly related to whether Trump‘s campaign worked with Moscow.
The special counsel did not bring any additional indictments when he handed the report over to Barr on Friday.
The following individuals were charged:
Roger Stone – obstruction of proceeding; making false statements to Congress; witness tampering
George Papadopoulos – making false statements to FBI agents
- Result: guilty plea; reached a plea agreement; Papadopoulos was sentenced to serve 14 days in prison, pay a US$9,500 fine and complete 200 hours of community service.
Michael Flynn – making false statements to FBI agents
- Result: guilty plea; reached a plea agreement; his sentencing, initially set for Dec. 18, has been delayed.
Richard Pinedo – identity fraud
- Result: guilty plea; reached a plea agreement; he was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by six months of home confinement and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service
13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities
- Internet Research Agency LLC, aka Mediasintez LLC, aka Glavset LLC, aka Misinof LLC, aka Azimut LLC, aka Novinfo LLC – conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; aggravated identity theft
- Concord Management and Consulting LLC – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Concord Catering – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik aka Mikhail Abramov – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Anna Vladisalvovna Bogacheva – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Sergey Pavlovich Polozov – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Maria Anatolyevna Bovda aka Maria Anatolyevna Belyaeva – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Robert Sergeyevich Bovda – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly Aslanov aka Jayoon Aslanov aka Jay Aslanov – conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; aggravated identity theft
- Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev – conspiracy to defraud the United States
- Gleb Igorevich Vasilchenko – conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; aggravated identity theft
- Irina Viktornovna Kaverzina – conspiracy to defraud the United States; aggravated identity theft
- Vladimir Venkov – conspiracy to defraud the United States; aggravated identity theft
Alex van der Zwaan – making false statements to FBI agents
- Result: guilty plea; reached a plea agreement; he was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine.
WATCH: Sen. Chuck Schumer says full Mueller report should be made public
Paul Manafort – subscribing to false U.S. individual income tax returns (five counts); failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts (four counts); bank fraud conspiracy (four counts); bank fraud (four counts); conspiracy to commit money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file foreign bank account reports and violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act; lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice; conspiracy to obstruct justice; making false statements to the FBI, the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) and a federal grand jury
- Result: on Aug. 21, Manafort was found guilty on eight counts, which included subscribing to a false individual income tax return for the tax years 2010 to 2014, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts for the year 2012, and two counts of bank fraud; a court declared a mistrial on 10 counts, including three of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, five of bank fraud conspiracy and two of bank fraud; he reached a plea agreement on Sept. 14, 2018 in exchange for a lighter sentence if he provided the Mueller investigation with “substantial assistance”; he pleaded guilty on that date to charges that included conspiracy to commit money laundering, tax fraud, failing to file Foreign Bank Account Reports and Violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, lying and misrepresenting to the Department of Justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice by witness tampering; his plea deal unraveled after he was accused of repeatedly lying to investigators, an allegation he has denied. A judge subsequently ruled in February that Manafort intentionally lied to investigators and a federal grand jury in the Russia probe. Those statements pertained to five matters: a payment to a law firm to pay a debt that Manafort owed; the role of his co-defendent Konstantin Kilimnik in an obstruction of justice conspiracy; Manafort’s communications and interactions with Kilimnik; a separate investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ); and his contacts with the Trump administration following the election. The court found that the OSC established “by a preponderance of the evidence” that Manafort made false statements to the FBI, the special counsel’s office and a grand jury about three matters: the payment to the law firm; his interactions and communications and interactions with Kilimnik; and that he made false statements with regard to the separate DOJ investigation. Manafort has been sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in prison, and ordered to pay $24 million in restitution.
Richard Gates – assisting in the preparation of false U.S. individual income (five counts); subscribing to false U.S. individual income tax returns (five counts); subscribing to a false amended U.S. individual income tax return; failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts (three counts); bank fraud conspiracy (four counts); bank fraud (four counts); conspiracy against the United States; making false statements to the special counsel’s office and FBI agents
- Result: guilty plea; Gates faced the same charges that Manafort did, but all were dismissed following his guilty plea in a separate case; in that case, Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and to making false statements to FBI agents and the special counsel’s office; he reached a plea agreement.
Konstantin Kilimnik – conspiracy to obstruct justice; obstruction of justice
12 Russian nationals
- Viktor Borisovich Netyksho – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Boris Alekseyevich Antonov – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Artem Andreyevich Malyshev – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk – conspiracy to commit computer crimes (two); aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin – conspiracy to commit computer crimes; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to launder money
- Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev – conspiracy to commit computer crimes
Michael Cohen – making false statements to Congress
Result: guilty plea; he reached a plea agreement.
Cohen was sentenced to a total of three years in prison. For his payments to Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during Trump’s election, which violated campaign finance law, he received three years, and another two months for lying to Congress.
WATCH: Trump says he doesn’t mind if public sees Mueller report
There was speculation that the president’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. was in line to be indicted over a meeting at Trump Tower in 2016; present there was Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, then-campaign manager Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The meeting happened after a Russian individual offered to provide Trump’s campaign with information that could hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances in the election.
Trump Jr. himself told confidantes that he could be indicted, Politico reported.
However, Trump Jr. escaped charges as did his brother-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who also was at the Trump Tower meeting.
How closely has the Trump campaign been tied to allegations mentioned amid the Mueller investigation?
Some of the closest ties between allegations raised during the Mueller probe and Trump’s campaign came up in the case of George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to the now-president while he was running for office.
An agreed statement of facts showed that Papadopoulos made contact with an overseas professor who, he understood, had “substantial connections to Russian government officials.”
Papadopoulos said the professor told him he could offer “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos had said that he made contact with the professor before he joined the Trump campaign.
However, it later emerged that the professor only took interest in him when he learned Papadopoulos had come on as a foreign policy adviser.
Papadopoulos also met with a female Russian national who, he believed, had connections to high-level officials in the Russian government.
He wanted to use those connections to arrange a meeting between Russian government officials and the Trump campaign, the statement of facts said.
Meanwhile, the indictment of Roger Stone alleges that the longtime political operator, who until 2015 was an official on Trump’s campaign, had repeated contact with Wikileaks as the website prepared to share in late 2016 emails that had been stolen from the personal account of the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Not all of the allegations in the Mueller probe relate directly to the Trump campaign — the ones concerning Paul Manafort are connected more closely to his work with the Government of Ukraine.
Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager for a period during the 2016 election, had been talked up as a key witness for Mueller after he reached a plea agreement.
However, that agreement unravelled after it was alleged that he lied to investigators. A judge has since determined that was the case, and he could now spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The allegations involving Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, meanwhile, don’t hint so much at connections between Russia and the presidential campaign as the Trump Organization.
In November 2018, Cohen appeared before a judge and admitted to making false statements to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about a project that the Trump Organization was looking to build in Moscow.
He had told the committee that discussions relating to the project had ended by January 2016 — but Cohen kept working on what was known as the “Moscow Project” right up to June 2016, according to court documents.
Cohen had also told Congress that he never spoke with anyone from the Russian government.
However, it later emerged that he had spoken with numerous people there, such as Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary.
WATCH: Sen. Warner discusses Michael Cohen lying to Congress to protect Trump
What about ‘collusion’?
Ask President Trump, and he’ll say there was no collusion during his campaign.
But is it a crime? Yes — just not on its own, according to a Brookings Institution study released in October.
That study explained that “collusion” is an umbrella term that encompasses crimes such as conspiracy to commit an offence or to defraud the United States, contributions and donations by foreign nationals and computer fraud and abuse.
The authors said that President Trump and people who campaigned for him could be found liable if it’s proven that they co-operated with Russians.
They added that a conspiracy charge is possible should it be shown that a Trump representative worked with the Russians to release any information that was obtained illegally.
However, Mueller’s investigation ultimately did not find evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, of the Trump campaign co-operating with Russians or conspiring to do so.
What has Donald Trump said about Mueller and his probe?
Trump consistently labelled the special counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt,” and charged — without evidence — that Mueller is beholden to Democratic influences.
“The Phony Witch Hunt continues, but Mueller and his gang of Angry Dems are only looking at one side, not the other….Mueller is a conflicted prosecutor gone rogue,” Trump tweeted in November.
Although Trump has insinuated that Mueller is somehow operating to further Democrats’ interests, the former FBI director and Vietnam War veteran is actually a longtime Republican.
Indeed, Mueller was appointed as special counsel by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who was himself appointed by Trump. Ethics experts in Trump’s Justice Department assessed that Mueller could lead the Russia investigation fairly.
WATCH: Chuck Schumer says calling Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” is a lie
Trump has also said plenty about some of his current and former aides who have come under Mueller’s scrutiny.
The president has sought to distance himself from the crimes of his longtime lawyer Cohen, even as his former fixer pleaded guilty to lying about his involvement in realizing the Trump Tower Moscow project.
Cohen said he lied because he wanted to stay true to Trump’s “political messaging.”
In a series of tweets, Trump said Cohen only co-operated with the Russia probe so that he could receive a lenient sentence on separate charges of tax fraud.
“He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence,” Trump tweeted in December.
While Trump has railed against Cohen, he has showered effusive praise on longtime Republican strategist Stone.
Before he was indicted, Stone was accused of having advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release a trove of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. He denied this.
“Nice to know that some people still have guts!” Trump tweeted.
Trump has also hinted that he is considering a pardon for Manafort.
“[A pardon] was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?” Trump told the New York Post in a November interview in the Oval Office.
Those remarks have added to mounting questions about whether the president is inappropriately influencing witnesses in an investigation that has dogged his presidency.
WATCH: Trump won’t rule out possibility of pardoning Paul Manafort, report says
David Weinstein, a former Justice Department prosecutor in Florida, said Trump’s tweets and comments likely don’t constitute obstruction of justice or witness-tampering because Trump didn’t explicitly direct anyone on what to say.
“What he seems to be saying is that people who continue to show support for him, in some way, may be rewarded for that support,” Weinstein said.
“I don’t think it rises to the level of obstruction yet, but it certainly would cause people who are conducting the investigation to start asking questions about whether or not the target has reached out to them.”
Trump didn’t make any public remarks about the Mueller investigation on Sunday ahead of the release of the report summary.
He published two tweets on Sunday. The first read, “Good Morning, Have a Great Day!” The second tweet read, simply, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
- With files from Andrew Russell, Josh K. Elliott, Reuters and The Associated Press
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